Two police dogs forced to retire after danger driver caused Sunderland horror smash

Two police dog pups had to be retired from their force after a danger driver caused a horror smash that injured them and their handler.

PC Andrew Errington said he was thrown around inside his van "as if being in a washing machine" after John McCabe, who was already banned from the roads and wanted on a warrant, smashed into it at up to 70mph.

The damaged police van after the road smash in The Cloisters, Sunderland.

The damaged police van after the road smash in The Cloisters, Sunderland.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Northumbria Police officer Errington suffered three broken ribs and got glass stuck in his eyes after being flung out of the front window of the vehicle, which had a police dog and two pups in the back.

The constable has been left in constant discomfort and the two police pups have been retired due to the trauma of the ordeal.

McCabe, 31, who had already smashed into two cars that morning and was being hunted by officers, has now been jailed for four years and ten months and banned from driving for ten years.

At the time of the crash McCabe, who has 51 previous convictions, was wanted by police on an outstanding warrant after he was convicted of dangerous driving in the summer of 2017 but failed to turn up at court to be sentenced.

Eleven-month-old German Shepherd Rossi was injured in the smash.

Eleven-month-old German Shepherd Rossi was injured in the smash.

Prosecutor Stuart Graham told the court PC Errington had joined the hunt for McCabe, who was driving an unroadworthy Vauxhall Corsa on December 30 last year, after he caused two collisions and assaulted a police officer who put her arm into his car to try and stop him, while driving dangerously around Sunderland that morning.

PC Errington was at The Cloisters in the city when McCabe sped out of a rear lane and ploughed into his marked police van.

Mr Graham said: "The force of the collision with the police van was such it shunted the van across the road , into a a tree and a wall, where it became lodged. The officer described the sensation as if being in a a washing machine.

"He was hurled around the front cab of the van and hurled from the van onto the pavement, through the window."

John McCabe

John McCabe

Pc Errington said the pain he experienced was "excruciating" but said he was thankful he was using a certain type of van that day.

He added: "If my dogs had been in the other van they would have died from the impact. It was only by the grace of God the van I was using that day had different cages, which were stacked up on top of each other."

The officer said it was "lucky" he didn't die, along with the dogs and said two of the animals were "not the same" after the accident and have had to be retired.

PC Errington said he hoped McCabe has taken time to reflect over his behaviour and added: "It wasn't just his own life he put at risk but also innocent members of the public."

Kassie, a seven-month-old Cocker Spaniel, was also injured in the smash.

Kassie, a seven-month-old Cocker Spaniel, was also injured in the smash.

Judge Amanda Rippon said it was an "absolute miracle" nobody was killed that day and told McCabe: "You have absolutely no regard for anyone but yourself when you are driving."

The judge added: "The police constable received hospital treatment for three fractured ribs and glass in his eyes. He described the pain as excruciating.

"The dogs were deeply, deeply frightened.

"When the van door opened one of them went off and it took some time to recover.

"The officer remains, as of today, in considerable discomfort with sleep difficulties, he remains on medication and on restricted duties.

"Two of the dogs that were in that van have been retired from the service as puppies as they were so traumatised they couldn't continue to be trained."

The scene in The Cloisters after the road smash.

The scene in The Cloisters after the road smash.

Jamie Adams, defending, said McCabe, who is a dad-of-three and about to become a father again, wrote a letter to the court to express his contrition for he did that day.

Mr Adams said McCabe, who is a qualified roofer, takes methadone to conquer his addiction and added: "Dependency on substances, that's at the heart of what has gone on here."

McCabe, of Fordenbridge Road, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to offences of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, assault on an emergency worker, driving while disqualified, failing to provide a specimen, driving without insurance, two offences of failing to stop after an accident and two of failing to report an accident.

After the case, Sergeant Alan Keenleyside, of Northumbria Police’s Motor Patrols Unit, said: "It’s hard to underestimate just how fortunate we are that nobody died as a result of McCabe’s actions that day.

"He put his life and the lives of others in danger by flouting the law and showing a total disregard to other motorists and police officers. He struck fear into those innocent members of the public who inadvertently came into his path.

"When confronted by police, McCabe then attempted to evade capture by driving off – dragging one officer down the road and almost running over another.

"He then caused serious injuries to an officer on my team by crashing into a police dog van, which resulted in the handler being ejected out of the window upon impact, suffering numerous broken ribs and glass shards lodged into his eye.

"I hope this sentence sends out a strong message to others that dangerous driving offences are incredibly serious, and we will vigorously pursue perpetrators and bring them to justice."

Sgt Keenleyside added: "A police dog and two puppies were also in the van at the time of the collision.

"It is with great regret that the two puppies – an eleven-month-old German Shepherd called Rossi and a seven-month-old Cocker Spaniel named Kassie – have both been retired from service due to the injuries they sustained in this incident.

"Whilst not particularly serious in nature, their injuries and experience in the incident have resulted in them now not being suitable to complete the rigorous training that is required to become police dogs with Northumbria Police.

"Rossi and Kassie both displayed huge promise as puppies, and they will now be re-homed to spend the rest of their lives in loving family environments."